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Old 09-05-2007, 09:14 PM   #1
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Water Heater troubles


We just had a plumber out to fix a 12-yr old water heater that had stopped heating the water. We had hoped to get a new one on our home warranty, but no luck - it was just a loose element that eventually shut off the gas. An easy fix.

Anyway, a day or two later I noticed "popping" sounds coming from the water heater. I know sounds are hard to describe with the written word, but this might help - on the other side of the wall from the water heater is our dryer. At first I thought the dryer was running and something like a tube of chapstick was tumbling along with the clothes - it was a sound similar to that (the dryer wasn't running).

Any ideas out there? I know a 12-yr old water heater is already on borrowed time.

All opinions are both welcomed and appreciated.

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Old 09-06-2007, 04:01 PM   #2
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Water Heater troubles


Gas water heaters have the heating element (burner) in the bottom. If the tank has not beed drained and flushed on a regular basis (at least once a year) deposits build up on the bottom of the tank. The burner heats up the bottom of the tank and "boils" the deposits. This is the popping sound. It also means that it takes more gas to heat the deposits to get to the water, so your energy bills will be higher. I agree that a 12 year old heater is on it's way out.

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Old 09-06-2007, 08:08 PM   #3
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Water Heater troubles


Thanks, majakdragon.

Excuse a stupid question, but what's involved in draining and flushing the deposits away? Do I just hook a hose up to the spigot at the bottom and open it up?

And do I need to shut the gas off during this process?

My guess is that it's probably never been maintained in the 12 years since the house was built.
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Old 09-07-2007, 09:27 AM   #4
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Water Heater troubles


First, turn the control to pilot. Turn off the cold water supply valve. Before hooking up a hose to the drain valve, open it a bit to make sure it is clear and will drain. Hook up the hose and open a hot water faucet near the heater. Run the hose where you want it to drain to. (best to keep it low so it drains as much as possible). Drain the tank. When drained, turn on the cold water supply valve for a couple minutes. Shut it back off and let the tank continue to drain. Look at the water discharging from the hose to see if deposits are still coming out. If so, reopen the cold water valve and repeat the previous process until water is running clear. When clear, close the drain valve and disconnect hose. Open the cold water valve and let it run until water comes out the faucet you opened earlier has water running. Turn it off and turn the control valve back to "on". Thats it. Good luck.
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Old 09-07-2007, 09:26 PM   #5
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Water Heater troubles


Thanks - I'm going to print this page and take it with me into the garage this weekend.

I'll edit this post to document the experience.
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Old 01-05-2008, 03:07 PM   #6
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Water Heater troubles


Okay - to show you what a procrastinator I can be - here it is 4 months later, and I finally got out to the garage to do this today.

I turned the pilot to 'pilot,' I turned off the intake gate valve, I opened all the hot water faucets in the house, and then opened the spigot at the bottom of the tank.

After 10 minutes, I had maybe a quart of clean hot water in a bucket.

I know there are deposits in there, because I can hear the heater popping after every time we use hot water.
But clean water just trickles out of the spigot. If I reach up and open the cold water intake a little, water shoots out the spigot immediately.

Is there a chance that a vacuum is preventing the water from coming out? I thought that was the reason for opening the hot water faucets in the house.

My theory is that it's clogged - Time to replace it? It's going to be tough to replace if I can't get the water out - just the 40 gallons of water in it weighs 300 lbs.
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Old 01-05-2008, 03:44 PM   #7
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Water Heater troubles


Now you need to stop pussyfooting around.
Turn of water heater.
Measure and go buy a replacement.
Wait for heater to cool (may take 24 hours)
Turn off gas, & cold water supply.
With a wrench, remove drain valve. Let drain. If it's in a finished area where water all over the floor is objectionable, let drain into a bucket and use a pump connected to a hose to remove water.
If water won't drain, stick something long thin and hard, like a metal dowel into the drain port to knock the debris away from it.

Replace water heater with new.
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Old 01-05-2008, 03:51 PM   #8
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Water Heater troubles


Now you have me thinking that the outlet for hot water has a built-in backflow preventer. Try holding a container under the pressure relief valve and pulling up on the lever. If the flow from the hose increases (or a container under the drain valve fills faster) that is the problem. You may need to unscrew the relief valve to drain.
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Old 01-05-2008, 07:39 PM   #9
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Water Heater troubles


If your water heater is in a spot that if it leaks won't do any damage then do not replace it if you can have the home warranty take care of it. They won't do anything preventative so you will just have to live with it unless it is in a spot you might worry about water damage, then replace it. Flushing a water heater is a preventative thing to do and is recommended at least once a year or else the deposits will more then likely solidify in there and your drain spigot is more than likely clogged too. The spigot that comes with the water heater many times is not large enough to clear the chunks that build up inside the tank. When flushing a water heater it is not necessary to actually drain the tank but only to open the drain valve and flush them under pressure, leave the water supply on. I only drain the tank if I am going to replace it but if it has not been flushed on a regular basis more often than not I spin the spigot out and replace it with a full port ball valve and a hose adapter and then flush it under pressure to clear away loose sediment before I drain it. I know some plumbers who blow compressed air back into the spigot (with the water off obviously) to try to clear the sediment out of the way and then hook up the hose. Check back in 4 months and let us know.
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Old 01-06-2008, 12:43 AM   #10
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Water Heater troubles


For some reason, this page keeps freezing my browser tonight, so hopefully 3rd time's a charm and this will post.

Thanks to everyone who's responded.

I think tomorrow's procedure will be the same as today's with the added step of opening the pressure relief valve. If that doesn't work, I'll try hooking up a hose and opening the drain spigot with the cold water intake valve open.

If I still don't get any deposits out, I'll try unscrewing the spigot, letting it drain out of the pvc pipe. First I'll have to get a LOT of boxes off the garage floor. Perhaps I can get a pool backwash hose and a hoseclamp on it to minimize the water damage in the garage once it starts pouring out.

Again - thanks for the replies.
(and no - jpplumber - the joke wasn't lost on me!! See you in 4 months!)
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Old 01-07-2008, 07:42 AM   #11
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Water Heater troubles


My reasoning for draining the tank while doing a drain and flush is to get all the deposits possible out of the tank. By just leaving the drain open and the cold inlet on, you are suspending the solids but not draining them. I realize that you cannot get all the deposits out since the drain valve is on the side, and not the bottom of the tank, but you will get most of them. Water entering the tank is guided through the dip tube so if the tank is drained, it has more force to clean off the bottom of the tank. Just my thoughts.
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Old 01-08-2008, 07:54 AM   #12
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Water Heater troubles


If its not the relief valve, there's just too much dang sediment in the bottom. We just replaced my sister's electric heater in her basement. Plastic drain valve flowed for about 10 seconds before it clogged with too much crap to even drip out. Luckily, its an unfinished area so, like they have said before me, quit pussyfooting around and unscrew the plastic valve. The water FLOODS out in a chunky mess but with a steady and patient hand we screwed the hose onto the drain. Lost about a gallon of water that had to be mopped up. I wanted to vomit looking at the "water" coming out..... it looked like oatmeal mixed with baby puke... and that's where her hot water came from!!!

This is why hot water heaters need to be drained occasionally
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Old 01-10-2008, 06:11 PM   #13
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Water Heater troubles


Thanks again to everyone who responded.

I guess that in my defense I should say we just bought the house in April - I'm not the one who didn't drain it for 12 years.

Just the past 8 months!
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Old 01-11-2008, 02:29 AM   #14
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Water Heater troubles


i replaced the heating element in my water heater and still no hot water... tank is only 2 years old at max what could it be?
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Old 01-11-2008, 02:30 AM   #15
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Water Heater troubles


I replaced heating element in water heater and still no hot water what could it be? water heater is 2 years old max kinda frustrated!!!

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